7 Ways You’re Putting On Condoms Wrong

Photographed by Megan Madden.
Condoms can be an excellent form of birth control — when they're used correctly, that is. If you know how to put on a condom correctly, and you do so every single time you use one, then condoms are a whopping 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. However, sometimes people make mistakes, and when you take human error into account, condoms are only 82% effective.
So, to help you reduce the risk of STI transmission and unwanted pregnancies, we've rounded up seven of the most common mistakes people make when using condoms. While a few of these tips are semen-specific, remember that it's also important to use condoms on any shared sex toys (they can't get you pregnant, but they can spread STIs). And if standard latex condoms don't work for you, just know that there are other sexual barrier options out there, like dental dams and female condoms.
The gap between what we learned in sex ed and what we're learning through sexual experience is big — way too big. So we're helping to connect those dots by talking about the realities of sex, from how it's done to how to make sure it's consensual, safe, healthy, and pleasurable all at once. Check out more here.
1 of 7
You forget to check the condom's expiration date.

Not-so-fun fact: Condoms have an expiration date. Ideally, if you've just purchased a fresh pack of condoms from your local pharmacy, you should have several years to use them. But what happens if a night out with friends leads to an unexpected hookup, and the only condom you can find is one that was given to you years ago during sex ed? Before you use it, check to make sure the condom hasn't expired, because an expired condom is more likely to break, says Allison Hill, MD, a Los Angeles-based Ob/Gyn.
2 of 7
You store the condom in the wrong kinds of places.

According to sex educator Timaree Schmit, PhD, there are good places to store condoms and there are bad places to store them. Here are a few places you don't want to store condoms for long periods of time: your wallet, your pocket, or your purse if it's filled with sharp objects (like keys). Basically, anywhere they could be poked, exposed to too much heat or cold, forgotten about, or inconvenient to grab when needed is not a good storage spot for condoms, Dr. Schmit says.

The ideal condom storage location is actually your bedside table, Dr. Schmit says. It's a place that's usually not exposed to extreme temperatures, and is generally not too far away when you're about to have sex. Of course, you don't always have sex in your own bed. When you're out on the prowl and know there's a chance you'll get it on somewhere new, Dr. Schmit says that it's okay to keep condoms in your pocket or wallet — as long as it's just for a few hours or a night. Similarly, purses can be okay storage locations if the condom is kept away from anything sharp.
3 of 7
You don't unroll the condom correctly.

Dr. Schmit says that one of the most common mistakes people make when putting on a condom is forgetting to check which way it rolls out before placing it on a penis or dildo. As Planned Parenthood explains, when a condom is unrolled in the right direction, it should resemble a cute little hat. When the condom is inside-out, it will look like a puffed-out jellyfish.
4 of 7
You try to reuse a condom after you unroll it incorrectly.

If your condom is inside-out, it won't be able to roll over the penis or dildo, and you'll quickly realize your mistake. A common reaction is: "Oh, I'll just fix it so it's right-side-up, and then put it on," Dr. Schmit says. Don't do this. If you try to put on an inside-out condom, toss it out and use a new one. All of that fumbling and re-rolling with your fingers can increase the risk of tearing and/or damaging the latex, which could lead to breakage during intercourse.

Think of it this way: You can get 36 condoms for less than $14. And if you don't want to pay that, clinics like Planned Parenthood hand out oodles for free. So it's 100% worth it just to grab a new condom if you unroll one incorrectly.
5 of 7
You don't leave enough room at the tip of the condom.

"When putting on the condom, you should always roll it down to the base of the penis and leave a little space at the top so that the condom doesn't break on contact," Dr. Hill says. This space will serve as a reservoir for semen and help prevent breakage.

You can create this extra room by pinching the top of the condom with your thumb and pointer finger as you roll it down the shaft of the penis or dildo with your other hand. Even if you're using a dildo, if you don't leave that space at the top, the condom could be too tight around the head, which could cause it to break.
6 of 7
You "double up" with two condoms.

Oh no, it's the dreaded condom-on-condom mistake. Let's be clear: Double-wrapping with two male condoms or using a male condom in conjunction with a female condom will not give you extra protection from pregnancy or STIs. In fact, this move will likely have the exact opposite effect. "While you probably think you'll be 'doubling' the protection, that will only lead to breakage and potential infection and pregnancy," Dr. Hill says.
7 of 7
You try to unwrap the condom with your teeth.

Unwrapping a condom with your teeth may seem like a sexy move, but it can lead to you accidentally tearing the condom with your (sharp and pointy) pearly whites. So save the sexy moves for after the condom is safely applied. "This is a skill, and not everyone has it down," Dr. Schmit says. Instead, use your hands to unwrap the condom and show off how hot your mouth is through kissing and oral sex (after taking the proper safety precautions, of course).

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